After reading the December and February issues of the Beacon Lights entitled, “Augustine on Sex and Marriage,” and “Child-bearing, Not Child Prevention,” by Mr. Steve Spencer and Mr. Ken DeJong respectively, I am compelled to submit the following response. My response follows considerable meditation and prayer on my part.
First, I believe the proper, although uncommon term should be “conception control,” that in lieu of “birth control.” The term “birth control” can be misleading in that the term implies control over the outcome of an existing pregnancy. Therefore abortion is implied, and that is no less than legalized murder. I am speaking, as I believe the above mentioned writers were, strictly of the attempt to alter the time and frequency of conception.
Secondly, it is my firm conviction that conception control, (the use or lack thereof), is a matter best decided between God and the married couple. It is not the place of the church, nor the brethren in the pews to judge the validity of the motive, in the case of any God-fearing couple. This same principle holds true in many areas of life. Though not as ‘hot’ an issue, the question of alcohol is a similar situation. Wine is spoken of in Scripture as both a blessing and as the instrument of drunkenness. Many Christians decide to abstain completely, while others choose a moderate use of the substance and avoid drunkenness. Can the “tea-totaller” judge the action of the moderate user? I do not dispute that children are always spoken of in a positive light, never in a negative way as in the example of wine, yet neither does Scripture ever place a number or frequency on the gift of children. There is no limit given, neither on the high side, nor the low side. Yet Scriptural principles are clear in that we are not to use the good gifts of God in an irresponsible and thoughtless manner. For one couple this may mean 6 children, for another 14. The point is that a couple makes this decision as a unit before God, not before men. Would it not also be true then that those who claim to have a “headache” or are “too tired” for sexual union are also guilty of “conception control?” If so, is the church prepared, or even permitted, to “police the bedrooms” of its parishioners?
Mr. DeJong stated in his letter that “we should not allow ourselves to be conned into thinking we can enjoy the pleasures of the sexual relationship in marriage, a wonderful gift of God, and at the same time avoid the normal responsibilities connected with that.” God himself has given us this blessed sexual relationship with our spouses to express the unity of the flesh as a way of picturing the unity of Christ with the church. A married couple may engage in sexual union without fear that it degrades the purpose, whether or not a child is the result of a given union. In the normal course of events, a child or children will be the God given result of a small portion of the sexual unions between husband and wife. However, a couple can practice “conception control,” for the purposes of limiting or spacing children, and still maintain all of the normal responsibilities associated with sexual union and married life. My wife and I have three covenant children and our responsibilities on their behalf have been no different than if we had had seven. The number would be different, the responsibilities the same.
The couple involved may have legitimate, Godly reasons for using “conception control.” It is their job, before God, to judge the legitimacy of those reasons. Not mine. Not yours. These reasons need not be explained to those who might point a finger, nor even to the church officebearers. The reasons and justification for a use of “conception control,” as in many of life’s decisions, must be reached by way of prayer and meditation of God’s Word as applied to that specific couple. Let me make it clear, I am not espousing situation ethics. If God’s Word does not forbid “conception control,” then neither might we. (Genesis 38 is not a condemnation of “conception control” just as Leviticus 10 is not a condemnation of burning incense. Onan broke the command to fulfill the Leverite law, Nadab and Abihu broke the command to come to worship according the instruction of God.)
Mr. DeJong also states in his article “In my younger days, if someone would have promoted birth control they would have been strongly warned that this was a form of murder.” Is then Mr. DeJong saying that we commit murder if use “conception control?” Would that not suggest that we had thwarted the sovereign purpose of God to bring forth a specific child? Can we do that? Of course not! It denies sovereignty, and suggests that God is not able to bring forth each of those for whom He planned before the foundation of the world.
We read in God’s Word, I Cor. 7:2, “Nevertheless to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband,” and in verse 9 of the same chapter, “but if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” In these passages, the apostle Paul states an additional reason for marriage, namely the sexual union, for the mutual satisfaction and avoidance of immorality of husband and wife. (Young People, let’s remember the above). Based on these and other passages, I agreed with Augustine as reported by Mr. Spencer in his article, namely that there are two purposes for sexual union in marriage.
My wife and I have also struggled deeply in the past regarding the issue of “conception control.” We have spent numerous hours discussing various passages in the Word of God and then taken those concerns to our Lord in prayer. As a result, we have been led of God to a path that is different than that of Mr. and Mrs. DeJong’s. Our reasoning, and the resulting decisions are where they rightfully belong, between ourselves and God. For conscience sake, what may be wrong for one, is not for another.
I therefore cannot sit in judgment of those who decide to use “conception control” for the timing and frequency of children, or those who decide not to use “conception control.” Provided that both decisions are arrived at through prayer and a desire to do the will of God. I believe with all my heart, that our conclusions as a couple, were motivated by our desires to serve God in the most God-glorifying way we can with all the factors for consideration the Lord has put before us. I trust the same is true of Mr. and Mrs. DeJong. I further believe, that my quiver is full with three arrows, for which I give thanks to God.
I am reminded of another passage in I Corinthians 4:4, 5: “for I know nothing by myself; yet am I not thereby justified; but He that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the councils of the heart; and then shall every man have praise of God,” and verse 6b: “that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against the other.”
God is pleased to have us living in the midst of a terrible and evil world. Pressures and temptations abound and attack on every side. We also live in an age when the family unit is severely compromised, the Biblical role of the wife and mother is replaced with independence from man, and the man’s calling as head of the family is all but gone. Let us not impose addition pressures on ourselves, (that of “policing” the personal decisions of God-fearing couples), where God has not imposed them.
Until that time God calls us home, let us live in a way which pleases Him, not our own selfish desires or bending to the world’s pressures. The basis for all our actions, including our sexual unions in marriage, must be Biblical, accompanied by constant reflection and study, seeking His will for our lives. As Romans 12:2 puts it, “and be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Fred W. Iwema
Member of Bethel PRC